Benefits of walking in the forest

Back in 1982, nearly 40 year from now, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined a term for taking a walk in the forest: shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” (like sunbathing meaning to get oneself immersed in the atmosphere) and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health both mentally and physically

1. Boost the immune system

While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects.  Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer. for example, this study and many similar ones echo this claim.

We previously reported that the forest environment enhanced human natural killer (NK) cell activity, the number of NK cells, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes, and that the increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after trips to forests both in male and female subjects.
These findings indicate that phytoncide exposure and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to increased NK activity.

Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function Tweet

2.Reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and improves mood

Practicing forest bathing was found to lower blood pressure and heart rates, induce a positive mood, and reduce anxiety levels. The evidence presented in the studies that were reviewed here indicates that forest walking and forest therapy programs are the most effective types of forest interventions. Two hours of forest walking during a single visit or 4 h of a forest therapy program had physiologically and psychologically relaxing effects on middle-aged adults with elevated blood pressure. Measurements should be obtained at baseline, before and after the intervention, and at the 8-week post-intervention follow-up. It is suggested here that an intervention study be conducted to examine the possible benefits of forest bathing among middle-aged adults in Hong Kong with pre-hypertension or hypertension

Effects of forest bathing on pre-hypertensive and hypertensive adults: a review of the literature Tweet

I quoted a ton of studies that draw the same or similar conlcusion above, specifically this one. 

Stress is known to raise levels of the hormone cortisol and long-term stress and chronic elevations in cortisol play a role in high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and many other ailments. To fully take advantage of walking in the forest, a guide is neccessary. Unlike a hike or guided nature walk aimed at identifying trees or birds, forest therapy relies on trained guides, who set a deliberately slow pace and invite people to experience the pleasures of nature through all of their senses. I figure it’s very similar to a state of meditation where one get oneself immersed in a mentally created environment (with the help of being in the forest) and dive deep into emotions and feelings. It encourages people to be present in the body, enjoying the sensation of being alive and deriving profound benefits from the relationship between ourselves and the rest of the natural world.

In Japan, there are even certified trails which were created to guide people in outdoor experiences. Decades of research show that forest bathing may help reduce stress, improve attention, boost immunity, and lift mood. In test subjects, levels of cortisol decreased after a walk in the forest, compared with people who walked in a laboratory setting.

3. Help Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD

bADHD affects 10 percent of American children. Symptoms include difficulty focusing, high impulsivity, and restlessness, all of which can negatively impact academic performance and social interaction. There is no cure for ADHD, and existing treatment options are lackluster, with medication and/or psychotherapy being standard approaches to manage symptoms.  Stimulants, like Adderall or Concerta, can be quite effective at reducing their severity but come with a host of side effects such as decreased appetite and sleep problems. Fortunately, this study suggests that forest or greens in general can help, with children who had access to green spaces for play showing milder ADHD symptoms than those without. A potential explanation for these findings lies in the theory of attention restoration.

There it concludes that these and previous findings collectively suggest that it is time for randomised clinical trials testing the impacts of regular exposure to greenspace as a treatment for ADHD.

Another study also echos this. They conclude that green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.

4. Conclusion

There are many other psychological, physical and environmental benefits of forests. Hospital patients may be stressed from a variety of factors, including pain, fear, and disruption of normal routine. Research found that patients with “green” views had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer postsurgical complications compared to those who had no view or a view of a cement wall. To me as a normal person, walking in the forest relaxes me and reenvergizes me after a whole day of study or under a huge stress. Not just me. Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us, a phenomenon called Directed Attention Fatigue. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient. Forest is a reset button and it’s a good idea to spend some time with the nature daily or at least regularly. 

After walking in the forest, it’s great to enjoyo the sun as well. We need that Vitamin D 

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I'm Will. Normal student who loves to be naked.


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